A man forced out of a Co Antrim town by loyalist paramilitaries was brutally beaten to death when he returned months later to visit his sister, an inquest has heard.
Thomas Hollran (49) was found in an alleyway close to his sister’s house in Carrickfergus on a Saturday evening in February 2006. He had been viciously battered and died in hospital the following day without ever regaining consciousness.
Unsubstantiated allegations of indecent exposure were understood to have been behind the order to get out of town.
A wall of silence has prevented police charging anyone with the killing, described at the Belfast inquest by coroner Joanne Donnelly as vicious and very tragic.
The coroner said: “Mr Hollran lived in Carrickfergus but had allegedly been ordered to leave the area by loyalist paramilitaries for an alleged indecent exposure offence.”
However, she said he had never come to the attention of the police for such an offence. Indeed he had never come to the attention of the police at all.
Mr Hollran was “a good and decent man” according to witnesses at the inquest, she said.
Medical evidence showed the beating was so severe Mr Hollran suffered multiple fractures to the face and head — resulting in brain injuries — and the neck. He suffered many broken ribs and injuries to his stomach, back and arms.
He had been punched, kicked and stamped on, and may have also been struck by a blunt object.
He suffered bruising to the arms and hands which, according to the medical examiner, could have been suffered while trying to defend himself.
Mr Hollran was forced to flee his home in Carrickfergus in early December 2005 after it was ransacked and he was told to get out, the inquest was told.
He was invited by his sister to see in the New Year at her home in the town and decided to risk a return.
But his fiancee Patricia Barnett, who had also been invited to the house, said while they were there a man arrived at the front door. “I think he was some paramilitary and Tommy was very frightened. He said he was going back to the hostel in Belfast. He said he would never go to Gill’s again because he was frightened.”
But the murdered man’s sister Gillian Hollran said her brother was due to visit her on the Saturday. She got a phone call at 8.45pm to say he was at the station in Belfast and waiting for a train. She received another call at 9.22pm to say he had arrived in Carrickfergus.
Ms Hollran said: “I rang him at 10.10pm because I was getting worried because he should have been at my house. A paramedic answered and said he had been assaulted.”
The alarm had been raised by local man Stephen Sugden who went to his front door, a short distance from the sister’s house, for a smoke and was told by two men there was a man lying in the alley.
Paramedics who arrived at 10.03pm said Mr Hollran had been put in the recovery position but was unconscious and remained unresponsive on the journey to the Royal Victoria Hospital where he died in the intensive care department the following afternoon.
The corner recorded that Mr Hollran died from blunt force trauma of the head, neck, chest and abdomen.